Angela Lansbury’s career has been little short of phenomenol and continues apace, as her performances currently in Melbourne clearly demonstrate! Stage, screen, television, music, it’s all there and the list of people she has worked with over the years reads like a who’s who of the performing arts in the 20th, and 21st, centuries. Difficult to pick one particular favourite performance from so many marvels, but her chilling Mrs Iselin in John Frankenheimer’s film The Manchurian Candidate still turns my blood cold.
And speaking of blood turning cold, Lansbury’s portrayal of Mrs Lovett in Stephen Sondheim’s grand guignol masterpiece Sweeney Todd remains one her greatest triumphs, and is still the performance that all others are measured against. A far cry from her equally wonderful performance in an earlier (and slightly less blood drenched) musical, Jerry Herman’s Mame!
Possessor of possibly one of the loveliest and most recognisable voices on the planet (I’ll try not to mention Darth Vader…whoops!), James Earl Jones is one of America’s finest actors, dividing his time between the stage and screen (both large and small), as well as putting that voice of his to good use in a plethora of animated films from Disney to The Simpsons.
If you want to listen to that voice, as well as hear some very moving 20th century American music, this is a good place to start. Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait and Fanfare for the Common Man are accompanied here by some lesser known works by Roy Harris, all of which are well worth hearing. Jones’ lovely reading of the Lincoln Portrait is rather special.